UCLA to get twice as many black freshmen in fall

Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times, May 12, 1007

The number of black students who intend to enroll as UCLA freshmen in the fall will be double last year’s, an increase to 203 that officials attribute to changes in application review methods and to new private scholarships organized by African American alumni.

The boost, announced Friday, eased concerns that blacks’ presence at UCLA had declined so much—down to 103 freshmen or 2.2% of the class last year—that some African Americans felt uncomfortable at the Westwood campus and others were reluctant to enroll.

UCLA Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams said he was very pleased with the increase and thanked alumni and current students who raised scholarship donations and sponsored events to woo blacks wavering about enrollment. Abrams said all that was done without violating Proposition 209, the state initiative that bans the use of race in university admissions.

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Peter Taylor, the Los Angeles businessman who chairs the scholarship fund, said all African Americans accepted to the UCLA freshman class were offered a minimum $1,000 grant from the $1.75 million raised. Depending on financial need and academic promise, grants went as high as $9,000 to compete with well-funded private colleges.

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This fall’s 203 enrollments, 4.5% of the class, create “a decent critical mass of African American students on campus,” Taylor said. “It has the makings of a good community. They can interact with each other and interact with folks of all the different cultures, ethnic groups and political views you are supposed to in college.”

Although improved, the African American ranks at UCLA remain low compared with their share, about 11%, of public high school graduates in Los Angeles County.

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Asian Americans will make up the largest ethnic share of the class, as they have for several years: an expected 1,854 freshmen, or 41.2% of the U.S. students, a drop from 44.6% last year.

White enrollment is 1,481, or 32.9%, compared with 32.1% last year. The number of Latino freshmen is up slightly, to 657, representing 14.6%, compared with 13.9% last year.

Officials attributed some of those changes to a more “holistic” admissions process this year in which applicants’ grades and test scores were reviewed more fully in the context of their life experiences. UC leaders say that process was race-blind.

Former UC Regent Ward Connerly, the conservative architect of Proposition 209, said the new scholarship effort did not break the law. “Certainly if people privately want to offer scholarships, that’s their business and I have no problem with them using their money however they see fit,” he said.

But he said he suspected the application review of students’ non-academic records was unequally applied in some cases to blacks and Latinos versus whites and Asians. “I wish I weren’t suspicious,” Connerly said.

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